The “C” word

In the yoga industry, it seems “contracts” are rare. We seem to get by with a lot of understanding and assumption. When paying for a yoga space, taking on a teaching gig, establishing a yoga workshop or entering an advertising agreement, it isn’t until something goes wrong, that we realise that there often wasn’t something in writing in place.

It was in one of my first yoga teaching experiences of starting up classes at a yoga space, that I was taught the importance of contracts. Each week I was required to pay the same amount for using the space, even though my classes were on a Monday, and when there was a public holiday, my classes didn’t operate. Soon the manager of the space started to make demands such as contributing to advertising, improvements to the space and selling her products for her. I happily agreed to some of the requests, and communicated what I was not able to contribute financially (having just spent money on my own advertising campaign) and how I could help in other ways. Before I knew it, I was accused of stealing products, and given an ambiguous letter telling me my next night of teaching would be my last.

I immediately spoke to a lawyer for advice, and even though there wasn’t a contract in place, the lawyer believed I would still be covered under the tenancy act. The manager came back and twisted the arrangement, saying I was simply “hiring” the space, despite not paying as I used and having to pay a set fee per week. There wasn’t a contract in place, and given the manager had already started to accuse me of being dishonest, I couldn’t risk staying in case things got worse. I madly called all my students, without anywhere to continue classes, to refund passes and do my best to manage my relationships with my students. From this time, I always ensured the terms of the agreement I had entered into, were provided in writing. A small footnote, the manager was known to have done this in the past, and continued to do this again after me!

As a yoga teacher, get comfortable with contracts. If you are presented with a contract that doesn’t suit you, negotiate something that does suit you. When we first start out, there is a lot of uncertainty around if classes will work, will you be able to build a sustainable class, and so entering into contracts may feel intimidating. Read through the contract and think about the possible scenarios, primarily, if either party are unable to fulfil their obligations, what happens then! If you feel unsure because you don’t know, ask someone that does and learn. There are plenty of experts out there, lawyers, other teachers, social media forums, Yoga Australia and you may even be able to find more information on the internet. Empower yourself with information, and make sure all areas of your yoga business and relationships are supported by contracts.